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To be or not to be a virtual restaurant

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To be or not to be a virtual restaurant What Restauranteurs Need to Know About Virtual Restaurants
The Balance Small Business, Oct. 1, 2019

Yet one more way to avoid cooking a meal is becoming a staple in many large cities and gaining visibility in smaller ones. The virtual restaurant — carryout or delivery only — is rising, thanks to advances in both mobile technology and delivery services. With Americans spending more on prepared food than on groceries, now is a good time to get into the business, though not in brick and mortar. The numerous reasons to open as a virtual restaurant include low financial barrier to entry, lower overhead and labor expenses, and forecasts such as investment bank UBS’s that annual food delivery sales will grow by almost 20%, from $35B to $365B worldwide by 2030.

Grant Thornton’s View Kelly Rodriguez
Kelly Rodriguez
Partner, Audit Service
Leader
National Restaurant Sector

Eat out? Eat in? While virtual or ghost restaurants and kitchens are one route to dine sans cooking, it’s not the only way to go for new restaurateurs. A major reason to not be compelled in one direction is the increasingly common expectation of getting what I want, how and when I want it. Diners still very much choose to eat away from home.

However, to succeed today, brick and mortar must be very different from in the past. The emphasis is no longer on excellent food alone. The experience is where it’s at. It begins with the physical, the exterior and interior design of signage, lighting, furniture, wall coverings, open-concept kitchens — everything about arriving at and walking through the door. Activities, too, are key. Outdoor, indoor and table games; and cooking with the chef, as well as surprising new choices such as a digital photo booth offer inducements to come and stay for a while.

An obviously green environment that includes building materials — at a casual facility, it also includes reusable cups, eco-friendly straws, compostable dinnerware and packaging — and a program for use of leftovers is appreciated by a conscientious populace. Understanding and catering to this and other changes in mindsets and demographics are proof of just one benefit of data and analytics use. Up-to-date technology for restaurant and patrons is a must-have for providing/finding information and discoveries such as the kind of kids’ meals desired by healthful- and global-food-conscious parents.

While a brick-and-mortar restaurant should consider carryout and/or delivery options, the focus should remain on what continues to be important to its patrons — an occasion, a social or intimate dining experience.

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